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In Jubilee politics, ‘analogue’ is still king

By KIPKOECH TANUI | November 15th 2013

By Kipkoech Tanui

NAIROBI, KENYA: Just like there are two sides to a coin, this Uhuru-Ruto government has two faces too. There is the younger face, radiating energy and harmony and the promise of a new way of doing things. Then there is the other; furrowed and wrinkled, which seems to have been patched up using straps crafted from layers of Kanu’s old skin from the 1960’s, until the other day when Mr Mwai Kibaki, its first executive officer, left office.


The first is that of youthful leaders heralded into power by the ‘digital generation’ so as to help us do away with ‘analogue’ ways of doing things. Men and women of their ages are energetic, adventurous, risk-taking and techno-savvy.

They look at the problems facing Kenya in search of solutions using current best practices in the world. This is very much unlike the way Mr Mwai Kibaki and his “Makerere’ generation looked at them, through the prism of the Kampala-based university in the ‘60s. The thing with former regimes is that they sought solutions for problems afflicting our nation using yellowed note-pads from lecture rooms in the 1950s and 60s.

So Uhuru and Ruto, though bound at the hip by the serious crimes against humanity allegations in The Hague, brought to office the hope that, finally, the time for the bunch previously described as, ‘leaders of tomorrow’, to rule had come. But has our ‘tomorrow’ really come or are we solving today’s problems using obsolete strategies and frameworks? We shall come to that shortly.

So the young Kenyan man and woman, even those who did not vote for Jubilee, were awed by the way Uhuru and Ruto demystified power. When Uhuru would fly from the airport to State House so as to avoid causing those hellish traffics jams which, under Kibaki, kept some of us on our way back from work on the road till 3am; Ruto would literally cry in church over the sweeping disbelief that he is finally at the top!  When Uhuru would probably be drinking with friends on the lawns of State House, Ruto would probably be in a small church in Karen talking about how the pastor’s wife ‘loaned’ his spouse her wedding dress some years aback.

At political rallies, they would be talking about computers and laptops for schools as well as the modern or digital generation’s ways of growing the economy in double digits. They would also appear in matching shirts, ties and suits. They would embrace each other the way Kenyan men do when they bump into friends at some social joint.

But beneath this veneer, there seems to be something else we should be worried about. It goes beyond (even though these were the early warning signs) subverting the Constitution by making some appointments without letting Parliament vet the appointees. It also came out a little when, despite Ruto’s resistance, Uhuru dipped his hand into the political dustbin and pulled out Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Najib Balala for onward transmission to the cleaners to be exorcised from the stench of politics.

But as we have seen with the story of mining at the Coast and Ngilu’s style of running the Lands Ministry, very clearly they are doing things the way old Kanu, Rainbow and Grand Coalition ministers used to do. All they needed was to invoke the name of the President to have their way but sorry, no more. Things have changed, although it seems they haven’t.

Now, in tandem with the second face, here you find the big difference between the UhuRuto government and that of Kibaki, Mzee Moi and Uhuru’s father, Jomo. The first three Presidents were lucky to rule without the restraints and encumberances of the new and robust Constitution that bothered Kibaki for only a few months.

But Uhuru and Ruto rule under two unique circumstances. First, they are international crimes suspects in The Hague, and this has influenced the way Kenya relates with the rest of the world. It also has reoriented their politics and management of State affairs.


Secondly, and most worrying, you sense some intolerance in their language and style. In Kanu days we used to be told there were vibaraka vya mabeberu (stooges of the colonists), those who serve at the behest of foreign masters. We were tutored that the West was our enemy, out to colonise us for the second time, but only by remote control; by just pulling the international knobs of power in the American and European economic powerhouses.

The difference between the draconian style of past regimes and UhuRuto’s is that it isn’t ‘suave’ for Uhuru or Ruto to order, say the gagging of the media. You will not even hear them warn that dissidents will be arrested, or that NGOs will be disbanded or that journalists will be intimidated. That belongs to the ‘analogue’ governments that have come and gone. No, since the Constitutions draws a distinct line separating the powers of the three arms of government, why not crack the whip of the tyranny of numbers that Jubilee boasts of in Parliament?

So a lot of what you are hearing, including the mooted removal of Ngilu and other ‘strategies that remind you of the older regimes we have had, could only come from one direction.

Forget the theory that MPs are acting independently — please go tell that to the birds — because MPs cannot act against the interests of their leader, benefactor and spiritual father.  Yes, under Mzee Kenyatta we blamed the Kiambu Mafia, under Moi the Rift Valley Mafia, and under Kibaki, we pointed the finger of culpability and corruptive influence around the presidency to the Mount Kenya Mafia.

Now under Uhuru and Ruto, we would be advised to say they mean well, but are being let down by Jubilee MPs. The laughter you are hearing is mine as I mull over how gullible we have become! 


The writer is Managing Editor, The Counties at The Standard Group.

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